The Department of Education will replace all the lighting fixtures at a Staten Island elementary school, after toxic chemicals leaked onto a child’s desk and clothes last week.
The fixture contained PCB’s, which have been linked to cancer and other health problems. Department spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said a classroom teacher at P.S. 41 in New Dorp noticed the leak last Thursday and called the principal, who had the room closed.
“Last week, parents were notified of a PCB ballast leak and confirmed that a classroom fixture will be replaced over the weekend,” she said, adding that proper safety and inspection protocols were followed so that the classroom could reopen on Monday.
She said poison control cleared the student of immediate danger.
PCBs are linked to cancer, developmental disabilities and other health problems and were widely used to insulate lighting fixtures until the late 1970s. Tests conducted in the city during 2010 found they can leak into the air of school buildings as they age, at levels above the federal standard. They are not considered an immediate health threat, but parents still worry about the potential risks.
Antony Imbriolo, whose third grade daughter attends P.S. 41, praised the school’s responsiveness. A parent meeting was held with D.O.E. representatives on Monday, where he said parents pushed the city to replace the rest of the lighting fixtures starting this week.
“We really weren’t getting the answers we were hoping to get, nobody was committing to any time frame,” he said. “It really wasn’t until we all started talking about keeping our kids home and not exposing them to this particular situation that the Department of Education reacted and came back to us” with a plan to remove the fixtures immediately.
Sam Pirozzolo, president of Staten Island’s Community Education Council 31, said the school was going to have its lighting ballasts replaced in the near future anyway. He credits the parents for standing their ground and demanding action at Monday’s meeting.
“The father whose daughter actually had the fluid touch her or drip on her was there,” he said. “They were very concerned and they were asking the health officials if this was your child, would you let your child stay?”
The city estimates nearly 800 schools have the lighting fixtures, and it’s in the process of replacing them over a 10 year period. But some parents represented by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest filed a lawsuit demanding a swifter timeline.